Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I've been putting this off all day because I don't know where to begin.
well actually, there are a couple other reasons: I'm tired, I've been a bit busy, I've been shivering and huddling under blankets, and I can't seem to stop putting food and drink into my body.
outside of those reasons, though, I still don't really know where to begin.
so I'll just jump right into the 60.

we stayed in a house about 5 miles north of the start, a place on a county road, fairly peaceful and private. private from the rest of town, that is, not necessarily from the other twelve people staying there with me.
we rode to the start, a nice little warm-up, and then took off on the Big Ride, Durango to Silverton. part of our crew raced the event, some of them reading their printed names in the results section of next day's paper, and five of us just (just) rode the thing.
it's not all uphill. there are some rollers, some flat sections, and even two grand descents. but the serious uphill begins like a punch in the gut: you're coming around a curve with some speed and all of the sudden you're moving at the pace of a strolling elephant. and it doesn't change too much for the next six miles. this is where, last year, I lost a crown in a shot block (these things aren't supposed to crunch, are they?) and swore (complete with swear words) that I would never--ever--do this ride again.
this year went much better. it was about 25 degrees warmer, the ground was 100 percent drier, and my performance came with only 75 percent of the previous year's pain.
can't ask for more than that, but we got it anyway: gorgeous blue skies, cheerful support people, nice blue markings on the road to alert us to bumps, dips, and potholes, and one of the most incredible vistas available in the western united states.
we came home chipper, cleaned up and went out to eat, came back and watched a movie about extreme skiers, then went to sleep feeling like we'd accomplished something significant.

there's always the next day. let's see, should we go for a run? a recovery ride? something slightly challenging? or should we, gulp, take advantage of the fact that we're in this extraordinary locale and go find some more mountains to climb?
some of us chose the former (which turned into a 6-hour, 17-mile trail run, which is a complete story on its own; thank goodness I can't tell it in the first person), and three of us, after much deliberation, hopped in the car and drove to silverton (elevation 9318') to go climb another mountain.
we decided to ride up to red mountain pass (elevation 11,018'), and then see how we felt before deciding whether or not to ride down into ouray (elevation 7770') and then (gulp) back up red mountain pass and eventually back down into silverton.
and this is what happened: the climb up to red mountain pass was so nicely paced, the grades completely manageable, that I got suckered into riding down into ouray and then back up.
it's written in bike grease on my forehead, sucker . . .
and I thank God I am one.
because this was perhaps the most stunning, beautiful, amazing ride I've ever been on. the thirteen mile stretch between red mountain pass and ouray is indescribable. waterfalls, sheer cliff drops, miles of pines, roads clinging to shelves cut from rock faces . . . and the worn and weather beaten sign telling us all that this land is America's Switzerland.
and I had plenty time to view it all, especially on my way back up, my bike moving not much faster than that lumbering elephant I mentioned earlier.
this was the unplanned ride, the gift, the experience that just happened to come together perfectly and cause me to nearly melt with gratitude.
or dehydration, not sure which it was, when I finally reached the end of the road.

it's so hard to go away and not take advantage of what you're driving through on the way to your destination. or on the way home. so, this time we had to stop in moab on the way home monday and go for a little ride. a recovery ride, after those two significant (6600' and 5000') climbing days.
no climbing on this ride, just a casual, easy cruise up along the colorado river and back.
the up was great: tailwind, easy grade, flying.
the down was a bugger: headwind, easier grade, grinding. groaning. okay, whining.
and it was beautiful: a landscape so dramatically different from the previous two days that I felt I was in a different country. from mountain passes to butted red rock in the space of hours, and to be able to ride them both within 24 hours: this is amazing to me.
I was parched and sweaty and tired by the end of those miles, and the shower behind the Poison Spider bicycle shop was that scale-tipping event that helped me keep moving forward, back on the path, moving toward the return home.

it's not the only way I've ever reached 135, but it might possibly be the best yet.

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